The first time you look at a crochet pattern it can be rather confusing. It is almost like you are reading a different language, but don't despair. Once you learn a few simple abbreviations a crochet pattern is quite simple to read and to understand. For a list of common crochet abbreviations click here.
Don't feel that you need to learn all of the abbreviations at once. Just refer to the list anytime that you come across a new abbreviation that you are not familiar with. Sometimes you will come across a special abbreviation that is not on this list, but no worries, the publisher or the designer will usually have a definition somewhere in the book or on the pattern.
Comma's are used to separate each step so it is important to pay attention to them. Adding or neglecting something as small as a simple comma can alter the meaning of the pattern. Symbols and brackets are used to signal pattern repeats or to clarify special instructions. Some examples of the ways that symbols and brackets are used are as follows:
1. * bpdc in each of the next 3 sts, fpdc in each of the next 3 sts, repeat from * across
2. work [2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc] all in the next ch 2 space
3. [dc in next dc, cl in the next dc] 5 times
4. ch 3 (counts as first dc)
Another way that brackets are used is to indicate different sizes. For example a pattern may read, “Instructions are written for size 1 with instructions for sizes 2 and 3 in parentheses”. An example of this would be:
With a 5.00 mm (H) crochet hook ch 10 (12, 14)
Crochet patterns are written in rows or rounds. The pattern will tell you whether or not you are working in a row or in a round and it is important to pay attention to these terms as you could be working both within the same pattern.
When you are first learning to crochet it is easy to get confused at the beginning of a row...where do you put that first stitch? A general rule of thumb is that when you are working in single crochet you work your first single crochet into the first stitch. With half double crochet, double crochet and trebles the turning chain at the beginning of the row counts as the first stitch, so unless the designer instructs you to do otherwise you would work into the next stitch. The designer will usually note somewhere in the pattern as to whether or not the turning chain counts as the first stitch. Often patterns will include a stitch count at the end of a row and sometimes this can be a clue as to where that first stitch should start. Here's an example of the stitch count at the end of the row:
Work 1 sc in the first sc and in each sc across, ch 1, turn – 30 sc.
When following a pattern you have to put your trust in the designer. A good designer pays close attention to the small details. Also, what a designer doesn't say is often as important as what the designer says. For example, if the patterns says to turn then of course you would turn, but if the pattern doesn't say to turn then you would proceed in the direction that you were going. The trick to reading a pattern is to read slowly and to pay attention to each detail.